ten thousand things

I have exactly ten thousand things to update y’all on. I have a post about breastfeeding that is desperate to be written. And one about grief and marriage. We started night-weaning last night, which I have thoughts and QUESTIONS and lots to say about. I have Bram updates to offer (the boy learns new things every minute; he is a wonder), Iris insights, my first post-miscarriage period (which is hell and which I’m in the middle of now), job conversations… Oh, and I finished my doctorate. Bloggers, do you ever have so much to write about that you find yourself sort of paralyzed and thus write nothing. I’m there. But instead of continuing to write nothing, I’m going to write a jumbled mess of WAY TOO MUCH. You’re welcome. By which I mean I’m sorry.

  •  Maybe I’ll start with the week before my defense, which we got to spend with an out-of-town guest, a beloved professor/friend from Charleston. She came to our sweet town to run a marathon (!!!), and then to attend a conference, so it just worked out that she was here for my defense. She stayed without complaint on our couch for five days being alternately woken by a toddler and harassed by a kitten. She was a trooper. But what’s even more delightful is that she got us OUT OF OUR HEADS for a while. Things had gotten sort of dark around here: I’ve been struggling more with depression than usual (the loss of a baby, death of a father, loss of a(nother) pregnancy, and death of a beloved cat kind of depression, which isn’t slight) and J has been walking through the default anger that sorrow tends to bring up in her. I won’t say we’re out of the woods (really: we have work to do), but M coming brought us some much.needed perspective. She is a joyful person, and that’s what we needed: less navel-gazing and more lighthearted happiness. When she left, we sort of fell back into the tension a bit, but only for a moment. I think we both realize that as easy as it is to act out of grief and anger, it’s not worth the toll it takes. I’m not 100% sure what the next few months will look like, but I know we’re both devoted to staying grateful and present and kind again, and that, as my dad would have said, is a good good thing.
  • And then there was my defense itself. It was intense, but so so lovely. My committee really seemed to like what I’m doing. They basically planned out my next four books, which is daunting (and laughably unreasonable, frankly, given my devotion to a work/life balance), but so exhilarating. One of my committee members said she “fell in love” with my take on vulnerability and wanted to re-read my dissertation immediately after finishing it. I can’t even tell you what hearing something like that does for my sense of… I don’t know… having labored with a purpose? Another said it was the most original he’d seen in a long time, and he called it “courageous.” They had all kinds of ideas about how to use the theoretical lens I constructed (to read history. to understand culture.). I hesitate to include this (and won’t go on) because it sounds like I’m bragging, but having felt like a failure for years in terms of my reproductive abilities, and having labored so painfully twice now with babies who will never be with us, it feels amazing to have actually accomplished this feat. So please forgive the self-congratulatory tenor of this part of the update. I truly needed a personal win to help dig me out of the sense of bodily defeat that has threatened to consume me of late. The feedback I got from my committee (and from J and my mom, both of whom read my dissertation and offered lots of wise insights) felt healing.
  • Also healing was the party J threw right after my defense, a kind of open house at a local wine bar, which lots of my dearest friends attended. I always find such events overwhelming (I can never process them until weeks after), but I will remember the feeling of being surrounded by so much love and support for the rest of my life. The everyone-calling-me-doctor part, though? That’s just weird. I expected to find it sort of exciting. I mean, it was kind of a lot of work to get here. But so far, it just embarrasses me and makes me feel extremely awkward. Who knows what that’s about. A sense that it isn’t real, maybe? Because of course I’m not a real doctor, right? Or, to some people, a real mother. These narratives. Sigh.
  • And then there’s this damn menstrual period. Oh, gods. It was this way for the first few periods after Emmett too. Every cramp is a PTSD trigger. Every bit of bleeding. Flashbacks. Panic. The constant reminder that we’re not. I’m not. That a lifetime of clockwork-like ovulation will almost certainly come to nothing but loss. Last Friday was supposed to be the first day of our second trimester. I had started to consider which dress to wear (for my defense) out of a box of gorgeous maternity clothes that friends lovingly sent. Now that box sits in our basement waiting for one of us to have the courage to mail its contents back, unused. It is a struggle. But Yogi’s Mama has been helping a friend through loss, and she wrote this about that mom: “she lost her child. Her son. Her second born. She didn’t lose a pregnancy and she didn’t have a 2nd trimester loss. While those things are technically true, they skate around the emotional heart of the matter. Although the mechanisms may be different, this birth will shape her life and the life of her family in ways that are no less significant or far-reaching then the live birth of her daughter.” It is no small comfort to have people in our lives who understand the loss we’ve faced, and who grief our babies alongside us.
  • But then there’s Bram! This kid, I tell you. His words aren’t completely consistent, and they’re not super clear either, but man oh man are they awesome to hear. Cat, dog, mo (for pomo), mama, cow, horse, truck, eeeooooww (meow), oooo (moo), who who (the sound an owl makes), Nemem (for Nemesis), Ice (for Iris), mun (for monkey), no!, hi!, done! (said at the same time he signs “all done” at the table). He’s also gotten super attached to his (my) woven wraps. It used to be that when I wasn’t wearing him in one he kind of ignored them. Now he gets them out of their little basket and wears them like capes or snuggles them on the floor. It is SWEET. He’s never really had much in the way of a (successful) lovey, so I’m pretty sure these are the first objects he’s attached to in this way. Which, if you couldn’t guess this, makes my heart MELT. Also, my mom got him a squirrel feeder for his birthday which we FINALLY put up a couple of weeks ago and he is IN. LOVE. with the squirrels that come to eat corn off of it just outside our dining room window. She also taught him to use the sign “eat” for squirrels. So now whenever he sees one (here or out on the town) he puts his fingertips to his mouth. You know, because they’re always eating. Lovely little being, our boy. He also, though, threw his first temper tantrum in the grocery the other day. Oh, Id-driven little creature. J was alone with him, and I know she handled it wonderfully: she didn’t make it about her, she managed not to care what other people thought, she was present with him, and comforting. But it’s a whole new world. I mean, the trauma when something breaks: a Lego tower, a banana (he WILL ONLY eat the banana while it’s still attached to the peel)… Still, mostly he just loves life and we just love living it alongside him.

Okay, I’m pretty sure this nap is about to end, so I’ll close here. But I still owe you updates on breastfeeding, grief and marriage, night weaning, Iris and Nemesis, Mother’s Day, job stuff, and a tiny little baby named Maya (AKA my craziness). Oh, and I clearly owe you photographs! Soon, soon, soon. I promise. I hope spring has brought lightness to all of you! I’ve kept up with blog-reading, just not blog-commenting. Forgive my failures and know I am with you, if silently.

Okay, little baby gave me time to post a handful of photos!

Iris. J. Bram. As you can see, we’re all struggling to bond.

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Celebrating M’s marathon!

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We get to look at this face. Everyday. Everyday.

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Bram is a peaceful little lover of wide-open spaces. Which makes him different from his (city loving) mama and pomo and exactly like his Aunts C and A (whose land this is).

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B wears Bernard (his stuffed rabbit) a lot. This photo is blurry, but I don’t even care. Oh and yes: that’s his pomo’s undershirt. We welcome warm weather/no air conditioning in style, I tell you. ;)

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Pre-defense me. Not a maternity dress, but a sweet one anyway, and a graduation gift from my mom. Those gorgeous roses are a graduation gift from J’s mom. I have a thing for roses. And dresses. And graduating. And look closely: this mama even painted her nails! (Which chipped off immediately. Because I’m a SAHM. Which is incompatible with fingernail polish. Still. For that moment.) :)

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Me and my wonderful friend Z wearing our left-leaning, sleeping babes on a pretty spring day.

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Oh and see! He snuggles his wraps now!

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6 thoughts on “ten thousand things

  1. What a sweetheart that boy is. I want to reach through the screen and give him a kiss! Best of luck with night weaning. We did it around 14/15 months and it only took a week (!), but it was a rather exhausting, tough week. Now at two-and-nine months he still has his morning milk, upon first wake-up, which is a lovely cuddly time.

    Also, please, please, please feel free to celebrate yourself about that defense and your doctorate. You ARE a real doctor! (And a real mom, of course). You deserve that celebration. Sounds like you’ve done amazing work (which doesn’t surprise me!)

  2. Congratulations doctor! I’m soooooo happy for you. And brag all you want, the vast majority of us will never reach such an amazing milestone.

  3. Congrats, Dr!! You deserve all of the celebrations…and, I have to admit, the comments made me interested to read your diss too. In some ways I feel that our lives are so parallel, down the to defense and the box of unused maternity clothes that should have been pulled out for the occasion. As we struggle to make decisions of our own about this process, thank you, thank you for your honest posts about the loss that comes with this wonderful process of motherhood.

  4. Many congratulations to you! What an accomplishment! And you should revel in it and celebrate it and soak up the love. The life of an academic (even beyond one’s personal life) is beset with so much doubt and struggle and time with open books and closed doors — the triumphs matter and help make it all worthwhile. I am happy to hear of some sunshine that has crept into your days — you all deserve great joy. And that little boy of yours is getting so big — isn’t it amazing watching his personality unfold. Even five years hasn’t been enough to dull the awe for me :)

  5. You are so awesome, Dr. G! Seriously. A real doctor and a real mama. And shame on anyone who tells you otherwise. I too hope to read your dissertation-as-a-book sometime in the near future and be able to brag to my students that I knew R “back when.” ;) In all seriousness, this is a major accomplishment, and gives me hope to finish my own coursework. I always love hearing updates, and I pray that this summer brings light to you, J, B, Nemesis, Iris, and the beloveds who are always in your heart.

  6. My most sincere congratulations. What a very huge thing to have accomplished. You had better brag about that incredible feedback. It is a rare rare treat to hear genuine admiration for things we work so hard to complete. That stuff is too good to keep to yourself. It is meant for sharing.

    I have so much admiration for your family. You have been traveling through this grief with such grace. Grief is so messy and it has the ability to bleed into every aspect of our lives. And with all the grief you have been surrounded by, you three have held tight to each other and have managed to still find the joy in the life you are living. It is impressive and also no small feat.

    So congratulations to you on all of it. You inspire all of us. Thank you for sharing all of your heart with us.

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